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5 Myths About Search Data

Ben Plomion
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Last October, both sides of the search marketing industry, in SEO & PPC felt under attack when Google announced that it would start hiding search data for logged-in Google searchers. Portent's Ian Lurie immediately cried foul, saying, Google has "done this for one reason, and one reason only: To shut out competing ad networks."

Although Google estimated that less than ten percent of searches would be hidden, that number soon climbed close to 20%. The question on the minds of many marketers: How would Search Retargeting remain effective without that data?

As one of those competing ad networks, at Chango, we felt the panic was palpable, but... overblown. The notion that Google owns all the data is just one of a number of myths about search data. Google is just one piece in the puzzle we build to help our clients target consumers with the ads they actually want to see. Below, we explore this myth and four others that often lead to confusion about search marketing.

Myth #1: Google owns all the data

In truth, Google only accounts for a portion of all the search data available worldwide; there are simply a lot of other search engines out there that people use, and there are many different techniques for harvesting search data. One of the best techniques is harvesting the string query data that publishers get from their referral URLs. Publishers use that data to see which keywords brought searchers to their site, and it’s been helping them optimize their content for years. That data also provides a huge boost to Search Retargeters.

Myth #2: Search data is only available through search engines

By definition, search data is not just data from search engines; rather, it’s data gleaned from the intent of a customer to search for something, within and outside of search engines. Eighty percent of users’ time is spent outside search engines, and, during that time, they’re often still performing searches! In face, most searches still occur on publishers’ sites, and those searches are the most valuable search data you can get.

Myth #3: Search data is not homogenous

Just because we refer to two distinct data sets as "search data" doesn't mean they're equally valuable or relevant to marketing goals. Myriad variables inform our classification and use of search data: the source of the data, the language the user used to express his search intent, the browsing history and social connections of the user to the brand, and so on.

At Chango, there are many factors that inform how we prioritize the search data we gather and how we take action on that data on behalf of our clients.

Myth #4: Search Data is limited in scale

Yes, there’s less search data available than contextual data, but that doesn’t mean that search data is limited in any way. Search data is everywhere, and smart tech companies know where to find it. Plus, we’re looking at new and innovative uses of search data all the time. One of our recent favorites is Search-a-like targeting, which lets advertisers target searchers based on searches that have already proven to lead to conversions.

Myth #5: Search data can only be used for SEM and Search Retargeting

search-query-relevanceSearch data informs far more than just Search Retargeting. It also informs Programmatic Site Retargeting — a Site Retargeting practice that relies on many data points to determines how much we should bid to serve an impression to a past visitor. Take the example of a phone retailer. User 1, who arrives at the retailer's site after searching “where to buy iPhone 5,” reveals a much stronger intent to purchase than User 2, who arrives via a search for “iPhone 5 FoxConn.” As a result, we’d bid much more to serve an impression to User 1. The search terms that bring a user to a site can also inform the creative of the display ad used for retargeting.

So, what does all of this mean? For starters, it means that you shouldn't believe all the hype you hear about Google or any other search company. Search data comes in all shapes and sizes and from lots of different sources. Properly harnessed, the different data sets can lead to phenomenal marketing. And that's no myth.


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